Saint Lucia
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CDB, CARICOM and the Dollars and Sense of Reparatory Justice

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

THE Caribbean Development Bank’s 53rd Annual General Meeting in Saint Lucia comes with more historical value than only dollars and cents.

It provides a platform for ‘A Robust Response to Gender Equity Issues’ and focusing on ‘Access to Adequate, Affordable Finance for Caribbean Countries’, as well as an opportunity to take a good look at another pressing topic that’s growing in regional import and related to both the CDB’s history and mandate, as the premiere development-oriented financial institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM): The region’s quest for Reparations from the UK and Europe.

CARICOM approached London and the European Union (EU) in Brussels since November 2013 for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide, but neither has responded positively or even officially, while Caribbean nations and the international community have spent a decade examining who owes what — and how much.

An international team led by prominent retired Jamaican and international judge, retired justice Patrick Robinson, last week (June 8) released their report, which found that European and American states involved in the Trans-Atlantic Chattel Slavery trade (TCS) together owe over US $107 Trillion, of which amount Britain alone owes $23 Trillion to the 14 CARICOM member-states.

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The figures are enormous — and equally significant – and the CDB has as enormous a stake – for two major reasons, both to do with Sir Arthur.

First, his very first book ‘Labour in the West Indies’ (1939) has long been regarded as a blueprint and/or template for Reparations for the (then) British West Indies (BWI) that’s today applicable to all CARICOM member-states.

Second, CARICOM — through its Prime Ministerial Subcommittee on Reparations (PMSC) — on August 1, 2020 announced adoption of Sir Arthur’s approach, as in his seminal first book, to the economic aspect of Reparations.

The announcement was made in Bridgetown by PMSC Chair and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, with Saint Vincent & The Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves (then CARICOM Chair) and CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) Chairman Sir Hilary Beckles, also present.

The general feeling among CARICOM Reparations proponents is that whatever financial or economic components come with any settlement should be put in the hands of an independent regional body, with the relevant Terms of Reference and longevity, for marshalling of the resources according to CARICOM’s 2013 10-Point Plan for Reparatory Justice.

Sir Arthur’s clinical applications, as outlined in his book — written following a personal tour of the BWI during the Caribbean revolutions against colonial domination and deprivation in 1938 — catered solely for Britain’s longstanding colonial debt, based on figures of the time.

But Justice Robinson and his team expanded their research beyond the UK to include Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United States (US).

Regional related discussions to date have largely been along lines of which CARICOM nations will or should get more and/or most of the US $23 Trillion, vis-à-vis all going to all 14 member-states collectively.

The CDB has featured in the many regional discussions among Caribbean Reparations proponents and advocates as the most-likely type of gubernatorially-approved mechanism to ensure resources are not directed only into the pockets of CARICOM citizens who can prove their African ancestry by DNA.

Unlike the USA, where more than one approach is being taken to Reparations payments by different states, CARICOM proponents prefer to adopt Sir Arthur’s approach, which ensure no discrimination between CARICOM citizens on the basis of ancestry.

After all, it’s the entire region (and not only citizens of African descent) who have had to wrestle with the post-Slavery and colonial decay that led the then 23-year-old first Black professor in the London university circuit to take a sabbatical to visit the islands and think-up a mechanism to ensure all the victims of British slavery – African, Asian, Indian and Mixed, as well as the ‘Poor Whites’ of that time — were equally compensated for the conditions they and their forebears inherited and suffered for two centuries, benefitting together.

The latest study throws new light on Argentina and Brazil and expose Denmark, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden as having been getting-away lightly, while CARICOM’s spotlight is on the UK.

But there’s also the issue of Saint Lucia and other member-states that suffered slavery under France and the other culprit nations not yet invoiced by CARICOM for their proverbial Wages of Sin.

With the 10th Anniversary of CARICOM’s November 2013 call on the UK and EU for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide in the Caribbean only five months away, there’s an Urgency of Now that can see the CDB’s 2023 AGM (at least) look at and digest the related recently-published figures and facts, towards making recommendations for creation of the required mechanisms to ensure Equity and Reparatory Justice in the way resources are handled and distributed regionally.

The regional and global Reparations movement has outpaced and outgrown CARICOM, PMSC, CRC, National Reparations Committees (NRCs) and related regional and international advocates and lobby entities.

But the CDB has kept pace with every aspect of growth and speed of Caribbean development in its five decades — and no less should be expected in 2023.

The CDB always led the thought and action processes for visionary Caribbean development and this is another occasion requiring urgent CDB adoption and attention, in its never-ending search for ever-sustainable solutions.

Here’s hoping Sir Arthur’s eight-decades-old blueprint is also adopted by the CDB as a guiding template for 21st Century CARICOM Reparations and that when Justice Robinson meets with the CRC early next month, that’ll be the start of a necessary round of regional consultation at national levels that will see the CDB — and every CARICOM member-state — benefit from understanding the processes employed and arriving at agreed mechanisms for application along the common and collective lines prescribed by Sir Arthur and agreed to by CARICOM.